Sunday, November 25, 2012

Preparing for Debris

On the west coast of the US, several states are preparing themselves to deal with  the onslaught of tsunami debris that is bound to hit shorelines this winter.  Indeed, winter storms have begun and with them comes increased washup of materials.

Washington State has taken many steps to prepare itself for oncoming tsunami debris, including states, local governments, private, and  non-profit organizations.

The Washington State Marine Debris Task Force has scheduled a series of community meetings regarding tsunami debris.  The next upcoming meeting is on December 5, 2012 in Long Beach, WA.  Meetings include information as to potential hazards, expected distribution and volume of debris, and community issues.

Click here for more information.


Teams and individuals  along the coast have been working to pick up debris as it appears, and thus far have led successful efforts to keep ocean beaches and shorelines clean.  In fact, collection of marine debris has greatly overtaken other cleanup and maintenance efforts.  In Willapa, Washington, teams removed 9,400 pounds of marine debris, much of which was attributed to the tsunami. Recent reductions in volume of debris have allowed community efforts to catch up with what has washed up thus far. 


NOAA has made an effort to remind folks that even though there has been a relative break in debris, it is fact still on its way, and can be expected to reach us in the coming 6 months.  Of the 1.5 million tons of debris that was washed ashore in the 2011 tsunami, approximately 33,000 tons are expected to reach US shores by June.  Not all of the debris may be Japanese- Chinese and Russian debris have also been reported, but not definitively linked to the events of the tsunami.  The most recent model (from earlier this month) suggests that the 'nucleus' of debris is about 1,000 miles away from US shores, however some aggregations of debris may be 400 miles or less from shore.
NOAA Debris Model for November, 2012.  The area with solid lines contains the highest concentration of debris, and the larger area within dotted lines encompasses the 95% probability for all marine debris.  See the enlarged map for better graphics and details.

Interestingly, the Environmental Ministry in Tokyo has pledged $6 million to the US government and Canada for cleanup efforts.  The irony in this is that the United States itself has thus far only pledged $150,000 for clean up, and indeed much of this has already been used.  This will be a political development worth watching.

Cans and bottles are among debris that reached the northeastern part of Montague island in the Gulf of Alaska in May. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
Tsunami debris on Alaska's shores [Photo: The Asahi Shimbum]

If you have any questions about what to do with debris, invasive species that may be hitch hiking on debris, or local cleanup efforts, please view my other pages.

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